Recently, one of my biggest supporters passed away. My grandmother, at age 76, was called home to be with the Lord. During the visitation I had a realization – one that the business world should appreciate. The story has nothing new, grand, or novel. It was simple, and that is the beauty of it. It also ties into a post that a well respected author, whom I subscribe to, discussed in his blog. The topic: Appreciation. In a nutshell, our actions can be everlasting.
In the early 70’s-80’s my grandparents owned a little market, aka grocery store, which was located in St. Joseph, MO along 59 highway. The business lasted several years until larger businesses with more buying power came to town and forced the doors of Ronnie’s Highway Market to close. It was not Wal-Mart, but the same concept. My grandparents could not afford to continue doing business and shut the doors a couple of years before I was born. Now, to the point, which is how this all ties together. During the visitation, friends and family came. Majority of the friends were former customers of the small business which my grandparents co-owned. The customers, which were friends in the end, came to the funeral many years after the business shut the doors just to send their condolences as well as visit the family.
Seth Godin, in his post, “No more kids,” proposed just that. He questioned, “what if your organization discovered that it would never have another new customer? That the customers you’ve got now are the last ones you will ever have… Would you treat them differently?” He then goes on to query the mind, asking if we knew that there was not an endless parade of new customers – would we focus on the ones we have in hopes to get it right.
Large businesses succeed usually around good startup principles. Treat the customer right, with low costs, and convenience of a product or relationship that are intriguing to the customer. So, they keep coming back. Ronnie’s Market carried that concept. In the small amount of time that the store was open they were able to build relationships that lasted a lifetime – literally. Nothing profound, or shiny that attracts you, and you are suddenly hooked. Simply business that was fair, and with a smile.
I recall reading about Sam Walton, and the foundational concepts of his little business, which has grown into an international conglomerate. He was customer centric. Although modern day Wal-Mart may have employees with vests questioning “How may I help you?” is that what you associate with the store? I am not saying that Wal-Mart now has it all wrong, just that they are not the same as when they started – and the customer is no longer “always right.” In addition, I am thinking of Hobby Lobby, which is currently in the news over their guiding beliefs. I am not going to engage into a debate on what I feel is right or wrong – but they are willing to shut their doors based on beliefs. I find that commendable.
In conclusion, I want to ask you – the business owner or you the employee , or you the customer – what do you expect of a business? How far will relationships take you if you engage one another. Perform business fairly, and engage one another under terms which will benefit both. There is not a revolving door of customers. Years from now, will you have customers lining up at your visitation? Will your customers consider you a friend? Can your business say that?